Monday, 24 October 2011

From Margaret Robinson to Tom Critchley's son, undated, (spring 1942)

53 Buckingham Avenue
London N 20

My Dear Tom,

I have not received your letter yet but no doubt it will be awaiting me at the office to-morrow morning. It may have arrived by the late afternoon post which I missed through going to the ARP place at East Finchley. We left the office at 2.30 this afternoon, about 8 of us went, 4 girls and 4 men and Mr Davies leading us. We had practically an hour and a half there, so you can guess we did not feel like going back to the office just to sign off. It was a very good do. We donned gas capes & leggings & gum boots and one at a time disappeared into a tin hut which contained a real fire and a fire bomb to be put out. We had to lie on the floor close to the instructor whilst he guided our hands and told us what to do. (Bet he enjoyed himself when the girls went in). Having disposed of the fire, we next proceeded to the gas hut where we actually had to take our gas masks off. So it was quite an interesting afternoon. I must say I feel more of a fire watcher now. Our fire watching last night was interesting as usual, but quiet. We read and talked most of the time after a lovely supper of chips & sausage meat, which Ethel & I cooked. We always do ourselves well on a fire watching don't we? Then later, about midnight, we had coffee and cakes. For breakfast, I was asked to cook one of my famous welsh rarebits. (Mr Davies insisted). You haven't heard about them have you? I shall have to make it for you when you come home, because I have had a lot of practice now. I have hit on a very bright idea. Ethel reminded me that when I'm married, I shall have to pay National Health, which amounts to 6/10 one month (4 weeks) and 8/5 another. Well as I should have to go to the doctor to be examined before he will take me as a panel patient, I could join N.H.I. a month before marriage and get all fixed up with a definite doctor. The visit would only cost 6/10 instead of 10/- or more. Your mother phoned me this evening and, as I had not received a letter today, she read hers out to me. I expect you will be sorry to leave there in 9 weeks time. I'm very glad you are not going to the search-light unit. Fancy giving Bowen a rifle with a fixed bayonet. He must have looked funny especially as I don't suppose he knew how to use it. I suppose you will have to take your turn on guard duty sometime. Winnie has now decided to get married on her fiance's next leave, whenever that may be. Apparently he has been pressing her for sometime. What we girls have to put up with! I'm still wondering how all the thousands of girls manage to perform their duties as a wife and yet continue at the office. What if they start a family with neither proper home nor food? Well I shall finish this at the office tomorrow, when perhaps I shall have your letter to answer. Tuesday I received your lovely long letter this morning. Evelyn had put it safely away in my desk drawer. Congratualtions on coming 2nd. What a pity George will not be staying with you. I expect he will have gone by Whitsun, when I am hoping to come down, though I really do not know where the money will come from. When I get paid on Thursday I shall be spending quite a lot on various clothes. A friend of mother's has offered me her coupons, although even with those I shall not have enough. Besides I shall not use the whole 18 it would not be fair would it? It should be a case of special leave for getting married. I noticed in the paper the other day, that a certain gunner Marks had obtained leave three times to marry the same girl. Apparently first time was in a registry office and as he was Jewish, he had to get married according to the Jewish faith (second time). The third time was because his records at the synagogue were destroyed in an air raid, so it's possible to get leave more than once if necessary. You mentioned you only received one letter. Well, another one should have reached you on Saturday this was also without "A Coy" as I did not receive your letter until Friday evening at home. I wonder if you will manage to live near home when you finish the course. It would be lovely. I should be very pleased to meet all your friends. By the way, I may be fire watching on the date we have fixed for our wedding, so we may have to spend our honeymoon at the office. What a revolting thought!!!! Well I suppose I had better get on with some work! All my love, and remember me to the others won't you?
Margaret
PS Mr Davies wants to hire a bus so that he can gather everybody together and come along to the wedding. But I'm not sure I shall allow a big red bus to stand by such a great church and mar our beautiful picture, rather like Hampstead Heath on a bank holiday!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

To Mary Platt from Tom Critchley 12.10.1940

37, Lonsdale Drive,

12.10.40

My dear Mary & Co,
If that daughter of yours craves air raid excitements send her along to us, we can put her in Tom's occasional bed... a mattress under the dining room table. All that we can guarantee is an air raid & most probably lots & lots of noise plenty of shell bursts & flashes & the far from exciting drone of Jerry overhead. If she had been here on Thursday night I guess she would have been cured. They came at 7.15 pm and for four hours never gave us a minutes peace; at least half a dozen at a time somewhere not too far off. At 8 o'clock we heard the swish of bombs & made a most undignified rush under the table. Three or four fell in fields close by & did an enormous amount of damage, most severely killing one cow. Shortly after that we decided to patronise the shelter. About 10 I heard the quick firing guns blazing away & as it was a lovely clear night guessed it must be flares they are shooting at so went out to look. I had a cap on and poised my tin hat on top of it. Unfortunately the hat caught the edge of the shelter & came down with a terrific clatter onto some bricks and then rolled onto the concrete path. Next door folks rushed out and seeing me in the garden called out in very agitated tones "What was that!" Pointing towards Palmers Green I said "They dropped two flares". It didn't calm their fears, but I didn't tell them what it was. We laughed about it and laughed still more when the missus next door told Annie their house shook. Now I simply daren't tell them.
We have now found another amusement other than popping under tables. Last night things were not quite to bad, so we went to bed about 10 pm. At about half past I was three parts asleep, when a bomb and its subsequent vibrations roused me, then immediately after came the angry-sounding swish. Annie was asleep, I yelled to her & she rolled between the two beds, & did it so gracefully too, just as the next bump came.
Is that the sort of excitement Molly wants?!
I certainly didn't think it exciting yesterday morning in a very thick fog I was held up at Brimsdown level crossing with the guns banging at planes overhead.
Johnson Matthey at Hatton Garden got a direct hit on Thursday night, I believe it has made a nasty mess & upset part of their work. We are still trying to get straight after our do at the works last week. Judging by the way three ton stuff has been thrown about it must have been a heavy bomb.
I like your suggestion about transferring to Scotland, but if we all did that we would lose our position in the league and might drop into the second division. One of my men has already acted on your suggestion, he is the only one to do a bunk and as he is Scottish by birth, perhaps one can understand it. He has gone to relatives somewhere in Ayrshire.
The character of the daylight raids have changed very considerably since we knocked the stuffing out of the big bombers. These still come in odd ones if the weather is bad, but if it is fine, then they send chiefly fighters with probably one-bomb each, most difficult for our blokes to intercept as we have seen for ourselves, there is so little difference in the relative speeds. We had such a raid at Brimsdown this morning. The warning had gone out for about half an hour when suddenly whistles sounded. By the time one had grabbed a tin hat, guns were blazing & before we could get into shelters, planes were overhead & by the time we had reached shelters it was all over. That was a raid that was. No bombs dropped near us. So back we trooped to our jobs.
Liverpool and St Helens are getting it pretty bad aren't they? What you folks have done to dodge it I don't know, still, their air force can't be as great as all that or they would be doing far more than they are doing. I certainly expected to see them keeping it up for days on end, but don't think I am disappointed, far from it.
Tom (Tom and Annie's youngest son) is still all right and not having quite such a tough time as formerly, they have improved the Central London gun barrage, so the suburbs get a few more instead.
That's all about the war news for this time from your special correspondent at Enfield.
We had two letters from Ronald (Tom and Annie's oldest son) this week, he is as usual having a nice enjoyable time & in one he speaks of purchasing a cocktail shaker!!
Cheerio and love to you three,

Annie and Tom

P S the bombs last night must have dropped near the tube (it runs in the open here) as there are no trains from Enfield West to Cockfosters, the terminus.
Annie adds a post script: 'Talk about going under beds. I was fast asleep when T. said "Get under the bed quick;" I simply rolled out of mine & under his. He stayed in, there I was under and he in!! All I felt was the floor bump. Then says he politely "You can get back now, it's all over."'
Sunday
Nothing to report except they put a bomb in Trafalgar Squar last night in front of Nelson, but didn't injure him.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

To Mary Platt from Tom Critchley 5.10.1940

My dear Mary & Co,

Whatever else life is as the moment, it is not monotonous, we certainly get a variety of experiences, all more or less unpleasant it seems. Even the all-night raids here had a break at last, ere they got too monotonous & the last two nights we have had the all clear by 3 am. But on the other hand the two preceding afternoons have been raids all the time. In our foolish optimism we thought rain would mean a cessation, nothing of the kind, it only means more haphazard bombing, which is a bad thing.
Last Monday night we had a rare good do, the best yet. Guns were at it all night & on one occasion as several bombs dropped together we had what one can only describe as an earth tremor; the beds shook for quite a time. Then that same night there was a crash which I thought meant tiles gone; it wasn't ours after all but next door had a large size shell nose complete through their roof & ceiling. The ARP collared it as they said it was unexploded.
Further to give a bit of variety, the chumps have eased up on the sirens so that now bombs may fall & no warning be out. Friday I was on my way home when there was a good old crump & when I arrived home folks all at their doors. The plane was fairly low overhead & had dropped two eggs at Cockfosters about three quarters of a mile away.
We have had two lots of incendiaries fairly near this week, but no damage of note was done. We heard each lot coming down and were out of bed and at the door in record time.
Occasionally we get a real good thrill, such a one was yesterday when in the rain & low clouds a Junkers 88 was spotted near the works flying low. I was on spotting duty at the time & had a good view. He flew slightly to the north of us & perhaps saw our chimneys, anyhow, he turned and made a dive for the works. The nearby quick-firing gun (2" Beaufort-Swedish-120 shots a minute) got him immediately with red tracer shells. We saw the shells... at first just short & then immediately underneath, he banked steeply, almost horizontal, & dodged in and out as every gun in the district got going. The air was thick with shell bursts and much too hot for him. Then he began to lose height and we saw two bombs drop. They dropped about a mile away completely demolishing some houses. The soldiers said their HQ told them they scored two hits & he came down.
I never saw folks as excited as some of our fellows were. At the top of their voices they were giving a running commentary in far from choice language & dancing about without a thought of cover. I'll bet Harry has never got in such a state at a football match.
As a further bit of experience a bomb was dropped on the towpath across the river from the works & one of big calibre in the works last night. The first only smashed one side of a building & brought down about 100 telephone wires, but the latter has made a lovely mess. It's in my side of the works & I have an office with broken windows & no ceiling and a lab next door that's little more than a rubbish heap. On the whole we were lucky it has done as little damage as it has done. The bomb went in soft earth and penetrated deep before exploding so that the blast was blanketed & the force exploded upwards. We have a crater you could put a house into, about twenty feet deep and fifty feet wide. All that earth went up in the air and came down on nearby roofs, bringing some of those to the ground. The garage where I keep my car in day time had a morris van inside. One of the garage doors was blown to bits, the girders hurled in all directions & the concrete floor lifted in chunks all over the show. The van body is a wreck but the engine etc is all right. The remarkable thing is the silver nitrate building escaped except for some broken joists in the roof. The copper sulphate building has no roof & one side is missing, but the plant inside is OK & most of the main staunchions and beams are sound. Taken by and large, I reckon we got off very lightly indeed & except for copper sulphate, can carry on as usual in a day or so.
All the vital things here escaped & furthermore nobody was injured, although men were working in the vicinity & some of the Home Guard were in a pill box between the two bombs.
The most wierd thing is the suplhuric acid tank, fortunately it only has about a ton in at present; the bomb fell about 10 feet from one end of it (by the way it is on girders 14 ft in the air) & it is still up in the air with most of the girders twisted into impossible shapes, two of them with their concrete bases suspended over the crater. Well that's the war news today from our small window. We had three letters from Ronald (Tom and Annie's oldest son) on Friday, all posted in August on different days & all via America. They cost him from 3/9d to 10/- to send & have come nearly all round the world... Palestine to Singapore, to Australia, to America & then on by American Clipper.
I doubt if he knows if there is a war on. Life goes on in the old peaceful way, perhaps we might say it's monotonous way.
Perhaps I told you he and a friend took a flat. He speaks glowingly of a trip to Jaffa and bathing in the warm sea and entertainment at Government House. Lucky Ronald, may his luck continue.
Tom (Tom and Annie's youngest son) is getting a little less attention at night now. I think that's why we are getting a bit more.
I don't blame Mrs Wilson's folks for leaving London. I think those who have no real reason for staying ought to get away, it isn't too pleasant a district these days & yet it might be a lot worse. It's surprising what one can get used to & put up with. Believe me, London folks stick it wonderfully well.

Bye bye, love to you three,

From Annie & Tom

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Letter to Mary Platt from Tom Critchley 29.9.1940

37, Lonsdale Drive,
Enfield.

My dear Mary,

Here we are again, still full of beans and with no great excitements to report, that is, none compared with many less fortunate people. The chief thing that worries me is the incendiaries. We had another lot dropped near here on Tuesday night or rather 2.30 on Wednesday morning. We were in bed and wakened by the gun fire when I heard them dropped. I was out of bed & at the door in record time to see them burst out about 200 yards away.
We seem to be in the gun barrage zone & when a plane is anywhere near there is no sleep possible. More and more guns seem to be coming into action. The battery of 4.5's when let off in solo shakes the place, then a big naval gun came along, and that seems as if the house was ready to come down. Last night they brought in a new lot which makes one afraid for the windows. The mobile ones are a minor evil. We go to bed with the intention of sleeping, but every time a plane gets near, we wake up with a row and cannot tell guns from bombs except when a big one shakes the ground, & fortunately that is rarely.
There was a bit of excitement on Monday to Saturday night. Jerry dropped two land mines. One in the Enfield Town Park & one just outside Enfield on Bush Hill Park golf course. The former didn't explode, but the latter did & bust up nearly all the shop windows in Enfield. The one in the park they decided to dismantle on Monday and shut up all the shops & cleared folks out of Enfield town while they did it. Even the telephone exchange was evacuated. The best was nearly 9 feet long and weighed almost a ton. It's a blessing it didn't go off.
On Wednesday night a couple made a mess of Golders Green & wiped out a family of six, among others. The man frequently came to the works at Brimsdown, we knew him well.
Tuesday night we had a good display. One of these landmines was caught in the searchlights as it was coming down by parachute. I heard every gun in the district blazing away, so went to look what it was all about and saw umpteen searchlights on this queer object with shells bursting all around it. But the weirdest was the way the tracer shells seemed to be climbing up the searchlights only to drop off before they reached the top. Hundreds of red and yellow tracer shells went at it. We watched it drift from our neighbourhood out of our gunfire & later heard it explode in the air over Cheshunt district. Except for a few roofs, doors and windows, it did little damage.
The nearest they have been to us is to drop two on successive nights near the tube station.
There has been a lot of activity today with a number of warnings. Once this morning, there was an air battle in the near distance with no warning. This afternoon 49 fighters passed over the works in one huge formation, may they have been lucky!
The most remarkable thing is that the works has escaped so far (touch wood) although they had one last night between us and Ediswan which fell on waste land... we aren't grumbing.
Tom (his son) is still getting a nightly dose, they have had one in the parade ground this week. He doesn't come home at night now, as there is no going out with any safety once the guns start which is now at nights about 8 O'clock.
We used to think Londoners were a soft lot (Tom is from St Helens, Lancashire, Annie from Millon, Cumbria) but if Lancashire stands up to it half as well as London has done, I'll be pleased. I haven't heard a grouse from any one of our 250 men, although, as my foreman said, he might well let his house furnished for what use it is to him. They work 7 to 7 & spend their home time in shelters & are making it their normal life.
The latest story going around is that one night a man who had gone to bed, heard bombs, jumped out of bed in the dark & in his haste didn't notice he put his trousers on back to front. He rushed out of the room and fell downstairs. His wife heared the row and called out " Are you hurt John". John felt himself and then in fear called back "Oh Mary, I've twisted myself something awful"
Yesterday we had a cable from Ronald (his oldest son in Palestine) to say he his "Happy and well", letters are rare and long on the way. The cable took two days to reach us after it was received in London.
Telephones and all means of communication are a mess these days. Our old man (boss) wanted someone the other day during a raid. The telephone girl informed him the person concerned was "spitting on the roof". The bloke of course was spotting to give an internal warning if danger was near. Spotters have and unpleasant job. Our lot blew whistles on Saturday and the men had only just got under cover when the all clear went up. There were a lot of rude remarks, but the spotters were right. They heard a plane & a bomb explode. The weather was dull and as it happened the bomb was a delayed action from some previous raid, but they, of course, weren't to know that. These delayed action things go off at all sorts of odd times & if there is no warning out, no one knows what the bang is.
Saturday
There was a good bag yesterday wasn't there? We saw little of it except gunfire and the noise. Tom phoned to say both the Houses of Parliament & Westminster Abbey had very near misses, the latter having one or two windows damaged.
It was a pitch dark cloudy night last night and we could see some fires south and south west of us, but nothing like the huge ones when they lit up the docks and that district.
I am having the morning off and I have just been to Potters Bar to have some adjustments on the car. They dropped a number the other night and made a bit of a mess. Just as I was getting back again the now familiar noise went forth... the 103rd time this month.
Now, just over half an hour later the all clear is going & Annie has gone to look if any of the returning fighters are doing the victory roll.
Before the warning goes we usually get several squadrons pass over us and see them coming back, sad to say sometimes with some missing.
That's all this time, except to say its time some one invested concentrated extract of sleep: they have done it for beef, milk etc, so why not for sleep?!

Love to you all,
From us both,

Tom

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Letter to Mary Platt from Tom Critchley 20.9.1940 continued

37, Lonsdale Drive, Saturday,

We had a fairly good night until about 4 am when things began to liven up. Something shook the house from top to bottom, whether guns or bombs I don't know. About that time they hit the Enfield small arms & blew up the gasometer as they are getting nearer to the works (Johnson Matthey)
You cannot speak to anyone, who has not had something near to them...
One of our directors has had to evacuate for a time bomb & has had several houses down near to him.
A clerk is also evacuated for a time bomb, but it doesn't matter in his case as his house has no windows & only a part of a roof.
The typist I told you of.
Anning, who takes over from me when I am away had a shell explode outside his house blowing the windows in at the front.
A chemist has a bomb dropped on a garage nearly opposite, he has part of the garage and car in his house of which one room only is inhabitable.
This morning a foreman rolled up late, the house next to his was gutted by an oil bomb last night, or rather early this morning.
It's a beggar isn't it?
Every day one hears that so & so's place has gone; still, I suppose it isn't so bad as was expected it would be; it will be alright some day.
I expect you to write to me each week, if I write to you, so see that you do.
I have given Tom (his youngest son) your and Phoebe's address in case the very unlikely should happen to us. As I told you ours is a fairly safe district as things go & it's tremendous odds on us getting hurt, besides, I expect ere long they will find a counter to the night bombers as they have the day ones. The only time they dare come in daylight is in clouds or rain & then only an odd one who drops his bombs and bolts for home. If folks stick to it, & they look like doing that, I believe Jerry is wacked.
London has got knocked about a bit, some places worse than others, but there is a lot of it & it's going to take years to flatten out everything & when that's done there is still Glasgow eh!
Later
We have just got your letters & are sorry to hear you are getting some attention now. Adolf certainly doesn't seem to understand that his attentions are not received with favour... I never knew such a chap for pushing where he is not wanted.
It's a lovely day here today so he is leaving us alone, he prefers weather like himself... foul, & that is a mild term.
Our record day is 8 warnings & a 15- hour out of 24 warning period.
By the way, take my tip & buy an electric ring for heating. Some folks  I know have been two weeks without gas & it's no joke to light a fire in the morning before you can have hot water. I think a ring is better than a kettle as it can serve more than one purpose. Gas is more vulnerable than current.
It's about 3 weeks since we had a peaceful night & very rarely do we get an all clear before 5 am. As a rule when the warning goes (about 8 these nights) one can reckon on an all night do.
I won't attempt to give you a list of damaged places, but transport is bad as they have made a dead set at railways, which after all is permissible, & they have certainly upset the timetables.
Keep smiling, it won't last for ever,
Love to you all from Annie & Tom
PS a friend of Tom's (his son) a midshipman in the navy is home on leave & says he'll be glad to get back to sea for a bit of peace.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Letter to Mary Platt from Tom Critchley 20.9.1940

37 Lonsdale Drive,
Enfield

My dear Mary & Co,

As the nightly wail has just gone forth (7.50 pm) I will get your letter off my chest. This week has been quite an eventful one in some ways.  To begin with, Tom's hospital got a knock-out blow at 2.30 am on Monday morning, but fortunately he was sleeping here & got a nasty shock when he saw it next morning. A half-ton bomb caught the building in a glancing blow, demolishing two wards in its fall &, exploding in the road, made a nasty mess of the rest of the structure. The Tate Gallery next door suffered somewhat from the same bomb. Most fortunately nobody except one M.O. was injured. The patients had been evacuated to the basement and were safe, though some had to be dug out the next day.
Tuesday night, Tom's girlfriend's family (Margaret Robinson and her sisters, Joyce and Nancy and their parents, Gertrude and Harold. They lived at 53, Buckingham Avenue, Whetstone, London N 20) had a nasty few minutes with a bomb about 50 yards away.
Wednesday night we had a thrill. A number of bombs were dropped in Enfield, not that we heard them, the gunfire was too loud, but it seemed to me unpleasantly lively in our district, so we patronised the shelter. Despite the noise we were both half asleep about 10.15 pm when both heard a noise like a rushing mighty wind & then slight poppings all over the place. I said to Annie "Incendiaries" & dashed out. Fires seemed all over the place, but fortunately in our gardens mainly. After making sure that we & our neighbours had none & connecting the hose to the tap etc, I had time to look round.
There was one next door but two, & one about five gardens away in our row, & at the back, the next door but one gardens on each side of us had one, & at one of these houses a small boy yelled for "Help!". One, the furthest from us, was left to burn & my word it did give a light, the others were soon put under, one byone with the help of the A.R.P. who came along in a surprisingly short time. Near the back of us a couple of more serious fires got going & the fire brigade was some time getting rid of those. Three houses got messed up. At the same time a whole packet dropped in East Barnet, they had some H. E as well. After we had quietened down a bit, we went to bed. Small incendiaries are not too bad if one can dose them liberally with sand as soon as they fall.
It was estimated that about 400 dropped on that occasion, it sounded like it when they fell.
Perhaps you wonder how folks are sticking it & what they really say... not newspaper talk. We have a typist , a widow with two children, living at Edmonton where there has been an undue number of bombs dropped. I gave her a lift in the car tonight and this is what she told me.
She said she was in her shelter last night with her mother, her young daughter & a neighbour & her neighbour's daughter. They heard a bomb dropping & sat holding tight to each other as they felt sure it would hit them. It dropped in the next garden but one & threw earth and mud (it was raining hard at the time) all over them. Then they heard folks talking, so she went out & saw a "funny" sight & called her neighbour to see it... they both laughed it looked so funny. The house next to hers & the next to that had got no backs & a bit further along the road the shop was on fire from an oil bomb. The A.R.P. came along & told them to clear out to a public shelter as the garden adjoining had a bomb in it. She said the people in the shelter were expecting them & lent them blankets & gave them tea. Later they were allowed to go home as the hole where the bomb was supposed to be was found to be a lump of concrete which had been blown into the air & buried itself in the soil. Altogether they had 11 bombs fairly near that night & it's by no means their only experience & yet that woman talks about it quite calmly & even jokes too. Her road is roped off now for a real time bomb.
Earlier in the week in that same district the folks on a quarter mile radius were evacuated because a land mine had been dropped there. These are Jerry's latest & apparently are huge things dropped by parachute so as not to go deep into the ground. The parachute of this one caught on a house gable most fortunately & was later rendered harmless. Tottenham was not so fortunate, one there caused great havoc laying flat rows of houses, but I hear, with no great loss of life.
Our typist has gone home quite cheerful, she says her house is not so bad, but the stairs are a bit of a mess & one ceiling is down, but there must have been a week spot there! She was in to time this morning too. The only grumbling I hear is that we ought to give back what we are getting instead of bombing only military objectives. There is not the shadow of doubt bombs are being tossed about with one aim & one aim only to terrify the civilians & at present they aren't terrified. (the writing here may be jumpy. When you have a mobile gun at the end of the road & it suddenly starts banging it makes one jump).
... to be continued....

Monday, 19 September 2011

Tom Critchley to Mary Platt 14.9.1940

37 Lonsdale Drive
Enfieldå

Letters, like many other things, are not delivered in the normal manner these days. We have just received yours of the 11th. I replied to your last letter at once, but it seems to be a long time in reaching you. Anyhow you'll have got it by now.
I think Harry is right, it would be a job to get a phone call through these evenings.
While these excitements are on I had better write you each weekend, but don't get wind up if a letter is a day or two late in arriving.
We are in a fairly safe area, the only danger is from some ass dropping his load too soon and that is a very remote one. Being of a mathematical turn of mind, I have worked out the odds as being about a million to one of our getting a packet and that is negligible, so we can carry on and forget it.
As for the raids themselves, familiarity is beginning to breed contempt; take last night, we lay on the beds partly dressed 10pm to 12.00pm, slept part of the time, then got undressed properly. At various times there was a terrific roar going on through which we couldn't sleep, but in the lulls we dozed off again and from 3.30 to 5.30 the all clear came and we slept soundly.
I thought in the last war I knew what an anti-aircraft barrage was , but it was playing at it compared with what they are putting up now. There is a battery of 4.5's near which nearly deafens one, but there is a monster somewhere in the vicinity (the tale goes it's a naval gun) that shakes the house and the burst reverberates in the sky for nearly half a minute after the discharge... just like a heavy peal of thunder. We don't mind the noise so long as they are giving Jerry a hell of a time. Just before bed last night we sat chatting with Tom and this uproar going on ... with each extra loud uproar one or other said, "give it to 'em!"
Yesterday's day raid... the long four hour one... was in rain & heavy cloud. All we heard was occasional burst of gunfire and a plane or two now and then. As I was at home I took Annie in the car to do her shopping. One cannot let this type of raid interfere with the normal course of life too much. A really heavy do, like some we have seen, is a different matter. I wouldn't like to go out while they are putting up a barrage at night, lots of houses have got missing tiles and there must be heaps of lumps of shell falling all over the place.
We are on the edge of the buildings in this part of London, so I suppose get a heavy barrage here. Anyhow it drops to a large extent after planes pass over us. It's surprising what you can get used to!
Annie is just getting dinner ready (or should I say lunch) She's just interrupted to say the sirens are sure to go, they usually seem to at meal times. We had four meals yesterday and the warning was out for every one. Is it just cussedness?
The other night (Thursday). Tom was on duty at the hospital (fire picket) when a bomb dropped alongside smashing up an ambulance and blowing over two men who were with him. They asked for volunteers to shift the wreck and clear up the petrol. While he was helping, a chunk of shell fell close to him. He has 24 hours on fire duty and 24 off. When off he leaves the hospital at 4.30pm and comes home. As there is usually a raid by 9pm of course he cannot get back, so stays here until 6am and returns then. What a wangle! It's a good bit safer here than at Westminster. We put a mattress down for him in the dining room with the head under the table. The other downstairs room is our bedroom, the windows are stuck up with tape... not paper, then there are lace curtains, the pre-war casement curtains and, over the bay, a heavy curtain, so we feel fairly safe there, or as safe as in our shelter, where you hear too much that is happening.
Don't worry about us, we'll be all right.

Love Tom

P S We've just got a letter from Ronald dated June 17. He asks his mother to go out to him by air... some hopes eh!
What are you going to do with Molly? Has she decided what she wants to do yet?
What do you think of these for air raid warnings?
Thursday Sept 12 9.10 to 5.45 am Friday
Friday September 13 7.30 am to 8.30 am, 9.45 am to 2.00 pm, 3.55 pm to 4.10 pm. 9.00 pm to 5.30 am on Saturday 14th, 11.05 am to 11.20 am... to be continued....

Friday, 16 September 2011

From Tom Critchley to Mary Platt 11.9.1940 continued....

37 Lonsdale Drive, Enfield,

...All that night banging went on & the glow of the fires lit up the sky. We are fairly high up & look over London not altogether an advantage when one sees these fires. They make me feel sad & depressed – a horrible sight & we have had a goodish number now. There's no doubt the effect is exaggerated, but it's not a nice sight.
 (8.45 pm  there go the sirens for tonight's do!)
Sunday night was my worst night. I couldn't sleep & Annie slept practically all night. (we lie partly dressed on beds downstairs) she woke once and said. "That was loud,  the biggest we have had so far, shall we go into the shelter?" "Too late," said I, "he's passed over us", I'll go and see where he is." I went out to look at the search lights & when I got back she was fast asleep with her head under the clothes. As for me I lay listening to planes and bombs & guns all night & now & then went to the door to see more & brighter fires.
I've not slept so badly except for Sunday night. It's only the louder bangs woke me up, but one gets so sleepy only sleep matters. We have slept through 'all clears' & wake in a morning not knowing if the raid was still on. I'll bet Mrs Wilson has had an awful time of it. She little knew what she was in for or she wouldn't have come. London is no place for visitors these days unless they want a thrill.
I am having a week's holiday, if you had been nearer I guess we would have paid you a visit. Today we went out to Berkhamstead Common & got 8 lbs of blackberries & missed two raids on London, but got one directly we got back. While picking we saw a big plane near & then came 3 sickening thuds. Yes, you've guessed, it was Jerry & he started a fire in the district.

8.45 pm
Guns blazing away and bigger bangs of bombs... we can see the shells bursting over the East End district... poor East End! Supper ready & it will be news then bed... we go early these days 'cause it's about midnight & 2 am the heaviest attacks seem to take place.

8.55 pm
More and more guns going in to action we can see the flashes & shell bursts both at the front & the back now. May they shoot the blighters down.

Thursday
Tom (Tom and Annie Critchley's youngest son) arrived home at 10 pm last night to sleep here as he has had a very bad time for several nights... their hospital (at Milbank central London) has had a number of very near misses & they have a rotten shelter to go to... he says they hear bombs & falling masonry all night long. He was a bit upset when he got here thinking bombs were falling all round us: I reassured him & explained it was only our local battery of 4 4.5's opening up. Do they make a row? They shake the house when a salvo goes off as  they are only about half a mile away.
At about 11 last night we had a thrill... our battery sent up a salvo & an explosion was heard to follow high in the sky, then a loud shriek & a cheer. One shot down. I was outdoors like a shot but saw nothing. The grocer's boy this morning confirms it was one shot down.
Those guns, until last night had done very little shooting, as had many of London's defenses, but last night every gun fired on every possible occasion, so we had far more row than usual. We tried our shelter, but, as you could hear far more from there than in the house, we went indoors. What a funny gurgling noise incendiary bombs make?
I'm afraid this is full of air raids, but then so is life at present, we seem to have the warning out for about 11 hours out of the 24.
We now and then get a letter from Ronald (Tom and Annie's oldest son was in Palestine), but they are very irregular, although he writes every week by air mail, lots seem to go astray, when he does write it seems to come from a world that knows no war, but is filled by the daily round, the common task. Life for him at the moment seems to run very smoothly & comfortably.
From all accounts we missed a good show yesterday afternoon & weren't exactly sorry. If you haven't heard a mass air battle you cannot imagine the noise in the sky specially the shrieking of fast diving planes.
Well bye bye our love to you all, 
Tom

P S It's now confirmed one shot down near us last night, a piece of wing found in Southgate. About mid-day today came a terrific bang, all the old dames came to their doors & I had to go and tell them that during the night I heard a whistler come down which didn't explode at first. I suppose it went off then. Folks are more cheerful today. The excessive gun fire seems to have acted like a tonic.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Letter, to Mary Platt in Giffnock, Glasgow from Tom Critchley 11.9.1940

37 Lonsdale Drive, Enfield

Dear Mary,

As you see we are all fit and well and still able to write, but like many other people we yawn now and then. We have had an inordinate number of raid warnings, as many as 6 in a day, but it's not so bad as it sounds. We have reached the stage where the sirens wail means very little, 'cause oftener than not we hear and see nothing. Last week the works (Johnson Matthey) only went in shelter for 14 or 15 daytime warnings. I can't count the number of warnings here at meal times have not interrupted the feeding. Three times in one day I was either going to or coming from the works when the wailings started.
The night ones are worse. Sometimes one lies in bed listening to bangs more or less distant, sleeping & waking & the beastly drone of Jerry overhead keep up an intermittent row.
Last Saturday was a nasty do. I'd just got into the bath when the wail went up to the sky. I decided to carry on but noises started which were too near for my liking so I hopped out quick & partly dried & partly dressed, hastened down. There was terrific gun fire & the noise of crashing bombs which soon died down, so, as tea was ready, we went to have tea. Hardly had we sat down when the uproar started again, so out into the garden to see the show... & what a show. The planes were just visible & so were the fires of the East End, We saw one formation of 6 bombers come away from the attack when out of nowhere dropped a Spitfire - then there was 5 & a trail of smoke falling to earth & the white flash of the Spitfire diving clear. We saw a balloon being lowered with a parachutist on top of it & then, when it was all over a Hurricane came & did some marvelous aerobics just by us. I think the pilot was drunk with victory, he did impossible things with that plane.
Of course we are daft to stand outside and watch!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

From the Hogg family memories of Salmon Lane, East London, May 1941

Whilst the raid was at its height a parachute mine, dropped from a German plane, plummeted down towards Stepney East railway station. It struck the country end of the platforms and burst through the arch below. Broken bricks, twisted metal and general rubble fell from above, killing many of the shelterers outright. The air was thick with dust, choking, blinding, dust, which made everything appear as if it was in a yellow-grey fog. Those who could, began to move, but lots more lay still and lifeless. Rescuers were soon on the site, throwing aside heaps of broken masonry in the hopes of finding someone alive underneath. Lizzie Hogg, her sweetheart Ernie and his sister Lil, had been on the Chaseley Street side which was least affected and managed to stagger out into the street. Once the initial shock has passed however, Lizzie forced her way back in and to her horror, saw her sisters and mother partially buried in the rubble. She fought through the clouds of brick dust, but was pushed aside by one of the rescuers, who said that she could serve no purpose by being there. Just then she saw a man pick up Daisy's limp body and take her towards the growing number of fatalities, she thought she saw a movement and called out "That's my sister... Don't take her... She's still alive!". Lizzie was right. At that time, 21 people had been killed including her sisters Emily, Annie and her Mother.
As day broke, passers-by could see the parachute mine still hanging from the top of the arch. Fortunately it hadn't exploded, but if it had, the death toll would have been even higher.
Hilda and Daisy were rushed off to Bancroft Road hospital, both suffering extensive injuries. Lizzie arrived soon after and saw Daisy lying unconscious. She was badly cut around the face and her head had been shaven in readiness for emergency surgery. She was therefore almost unrecognisable and when she was led towards her, Lizzie said "That's not Daisy! That's a man!" Although she saw Daisy, there was no mention of Hilda, whose injuries must have been more severe. The wards at Bancroft Road were overwhelmed with numerous victims from eslewhere in the area, so later in the day, Daisy was transferred to Winchmore Hill in north London. But on the Monday, little Hilda, always referred to as 'The Baby', died.
Having arrived at Winchmore HIll, Daisy remained unconscious, but could call out "take those children off my legs!" every so often, presumably re-living the horrific experience which had overtaken her and her family. One day, she opened her eyes to see the bleary shape of her Dad and his brother Arthur standing beside the bed, but then she passed out again and returned to oblivion.
Daisy remained in that condition for exactly a week. On Sunday 18th May she finally came round. She had her eyes fully open and in the early process of regaining her senses, she looked up and saw her distraught father standing over her. This time he was on his own, and was wearing an ominous black suit. From this she immediately knew that someone in her family had been killed and instinctively guessed it was her Mother. With tears welling in her eyes she asked "How are the others? How's Hilda?" Her father said "she's alright, she's in another hospital."  and for a while at least, Daisy felt a little better. Her father Bill Hogg knew how close Daisy and Hilda had been, and felt for the time it was best she didn't know the complete truth, although, of course, she soon found out. Her Mother had gone, together with three of her sisters.
The happy morning of Saturday 10th May, when the pair ran carelessly laughing from Jack Spiro's shop, eating their chocolate, proved to be their last together.
Why Hilda? Why Annie?, Why Emily?, And why their Mother? The same sort of questions must have hung upon the lips of numerous East Enders during that unspeakably awful period.
Little was said of the funerals, although Daisy was subsequently told that they had all been buried at Woodgrange Cemetary.
Daisy's recovery was slow, she was 14 years old. She was moved to Chase Farm Hospital and had two weeks convalecsence with her Uncle and Aunt in Sutton Valance, Kent. She survived to grow up, marry and have a son. She lived until she was 84.

Monday, 4 July 2011

From the Hogg family memories of Salmon Lane, East London, May 1941

Reproduced here by permission of a member of the Hogg family.BC

Like so many of their contemporaries, the Hoggs somehow managed to cope with the unbelievable terrors of the Blitz and tried to live as normal as life as possible. In the spring of 1941, little Hilda Hogg was taken to a local photographic studio to have a portrait taken and the print was collected on Saturday 10th May. Hilda was always inclined to look rather serious when photographed, but this time her expression displayed an odd element of uncertainly. This was perhgaps not surprising, as life for a seven year old East End child at the height of the Second World War must have been horrific beyond belief. This day, however, she was happy, and together with her sister Daisy, she went across the road to buy some chocolate at Jack Spiro's shop. The two girls came out laughing. It was a bright spring day and they were teasing each other. At times like this the war seemed unimportant and, in some ways, unreal. The only thing that mattered was the joy of the two sisters being together and, with the aid of a chocolate bar, momentarily forgetting their nightly ordeals. That was not easy, despite the cheerful sunshine, the distinctive smell of burning hung in the air, as an ever present reminder of the previous air raid.
As the family feared being buried alive in their Anderson Shelter in their garden they went that night, Annie, Emily, Daisy, Hilda with their mum to shelter under the York Road railway arch. Sister Lizzie was there as well, but she was seeing a young man, so she was with him and his recently widowed sister on a bench opposite.
As usual, everyone tried to settle down for a night's sleep, but, of course, this would be difficult. Almost as if on cue, the sirens began to sound and the heavy droning of aero engines announced the regular murderous onslaught by Hitler's Luftwaffe.
The small hours of Sunday 11th May brought the worst raid for some time, and Tom Critchley, a chemist from Enfield, gave a chilling eye-witness account:
"We had just got into bed when at 11 wailing willie started and as it was a cloudless moonlight night, I guessed it was our turn. We didn't have to wait for long before we knew for certain. We slept on and off as the row permitted, but after some extra  big noises at about 1.30 I got up to see what was going on. There was a long row of fires from the East End to Westminster and one could see bombs bursting in amongst them and planes galore above..."
If that was scene as viewed from suburbia, the reality for those unfortunate enought to live closer to central London could only be described as a holocaust. The bombers continued to drone overhead, as anti-aircraft guns pounded aimlessly into the night sky, with little or no chance of reaching a target.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Letter from Tom Critchley to the Platt family 19.5.41

37, Lonsdale Drive,

19.5.41

My dear Mary, Harry & the little one,

We thought Hess must have landed somewhere near you; What a bit of excitement it was for you! Even now one can hardly believe the news is true – too good to be true.
He wasn't so daft as they try to make out, he knew that in landing amongst the Scots he was amonst his own sort – snorts of indignation from one member of the family!!
If Molly wants some bits of shrapnel, I can send her a few odd pieces, as after a Blitz there are lots of odd things in the works.
Now about the watch, our bloke who visits the jewellers says Clerkenwell is a mess & those watches that are being made now are much advanced in price as well as suffering from purchase tax' as the selection is very poor & limited. He said you would do far better to purchase locally (Glasgow) as you would get a better selection & the price ought to be as low if not lower than the new market prices. So I have done nothing further in the matter.
Furthermore, also anything else you like I did not forget the Ostocalcium, but have ordered 599 every week, since I came back & each delivery day they have failed to turn up. One must conclude that our suppliers cannot get them for which I am truly sorry.
I bought some fruit jars from Woolworth's the other day, they they were UGB stuff I thought they must be the best obtainable.
I think I wrote to you before our latest Blitz, the  day Hitler sent out his Hess-O-Hess, if I didn't you must excuse the following.
We had just got into bed when at 11pm wailing Willie started & as it was a cloudless moonlight night I guessed it was our turn. We didn't have long to wait before we knew for certain. We slept on and off as the row permitted but after some extra big noises about 1.30, I got up to see how the war was getting on. There was long row of fires from East London to Westminster & one could see bombs bursting in amongst them & planes galore up above. Our local guns were not so active as usual, probably because of the numbers of fighters which one could hear having a beano day (night?) When I got back into bed this was the conversation.
"Are there many planes about?
Yes, lots, but a number are our fighters.
Isn't it a bad raid?
Yes, pretty bad by the sound of things.
Any fires?
Yes, from the docks to Westminster.
Ah well perhaps they will let us have some oranges now."
Soon after she was aleep, but only slept in spells.
The fires were bad. Fortunately nothing much dropped with in half a mile of us, though Enfield had plenty of incendiaries, one of which, praise Allah, burnt out the Income Tax Office.
It's our war weapons week this week & London expects to get £100,000,000 of which Enfield aims for £300,000, the first day this latter place got £209,000 & my contribution hasn't yet been made, so we should get more than our little bit!!
Have you heard of the song Hess sang to Hitler?
"You take the high road & I'll take the low road & I'll be in Scotland before you"
I didn't attempt to put it into Scots, lest my Scottish neice should correct me.
The latest one is that Hess is spending his second imprisonment in writing. The first one was spend with Hitler on "Mein Kampf" The second one is spent in wriiting the sequel, "Mein DeKampf."
There's still another theory about Hess. Hitler told him to go to Moscow & Hess thought he said Glasgow believing they were the same place.– they are much of a muchness aren't they? Or is Glasgow not just so nice?
I hope Molly did well in her history exam, they (exams) are like bombs, inventions of the devil.
Oh, by the way, if we had wanted to go in our shelter the night of our last Blitz we would have been mighty uncomfortable. Tom has discovered it can be made into a dark room & he had spread out his home made  enlarger in there. These childer!
It looks as if Ronald is going to feel the effects of war, thought Jerry has a worse job out there than have we. If he gets to the oil, he cannot cart it into Germany.
What with the Hess affair & one thing and another, it does look as if things were the opposite of "not just as nice" whatever the expression ought to be. Certainly he (Jerry) doesn't or cannot keep up the night after night bombing on us. We aren't in as bad a mess as Jerry is,

Love to you all three from us both,

Tom

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Letter to the Platt family from Tom Critchley 9.5.1941

 9.5.41

37 Lonsdale Drive

My dear Mary, Harry & Molly,

Such a long start helps to fill up!  I hope you are all right after your new lot of Hunnish attentions. You & St Helens folk will have to come & see us & enjoy peace & quietness; since we came back there has been nothing to worry about a few warnings, but only once or twice have we been wakened by gunfire. It does begin to look as if London is to be spared until we do some bomb damage (or should it be damn bommage) to Berlin again & then there will be a so-called reprisal raid. Since they seem to feel like that about it, it shows where they feel it most & that is where we want to hit them. From what Seth says, Liverpool seems to be in a sad mess, I hope Glasgow is not too bad, especially the vital ship building yards. Like you we are "enjoying" rotten cold weather & begin to wonder if it will ever get warm again, though this week we have quite a reasonable amount of sunshine with clear frosty nights. Tom thoroughly enjoyed his holiday & found the old car averaged 42 miles to the gallon of petrol. I say petrol in case you may think I meant oil – the oil consumption is somewhat high after 40,000 miles or more. He tried to get up Newlands Pass with it & came to a full stop, so reversed & amused onlookers by going up backwards. Fancy, he let Seth beat him at bowls, letting down the senior branch of the family.   I suppose Seth learned a lot from Harry & me& so will have improved. If Jerry comes to see us to-night, he can't; Tom has discovered that our shelter makes a first rate dark room & so has his home-made enlarger therein installed & is busy on his recent photographs. Oh, by the way, can't Molly sort this weather for us, not that it is broken weather, but it sure wants mending. Another by the way (I have to fill up somehow) do the Scots refer to "broken" weather as "sorted" weather or "wants sorting", or only assorted weather? Some time she must come & see us and teach us its proper and improper uses. Love to you all from us both,

Tom

(There is one more letter on the Blitz to come from this set. Then I have obtained permission from a Hogg family descendent, who is a historian and writer, to reproduce his account of how one May raid described by Tom Critchley was experienced by his family living at that time in Salmon Lane, East London. BC)

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

More to come!

I am a little late with the last few letters to go on this blog as our modem was no longer linking us into the net and Virgin has just replaced it with an up-to-date one. I have one a couple of letters to post from the Blitz and from the 1950s, Annie's letter about going to see Westminster Abbey, where her son was appointed to officiate at the Queen's coronation as a gold staff officer. BC

Friday, 20 May 2011

Letter to Molly Platt from Tom Critchley 30.4.1941

30.4.41

My Dear Molly,

If you are out to criticise the spelling of a Critchley you have a very easy task. If you are a true Critchley or even only half a one (pedantically 'an one' usage says a one) you can't spell for nuts. I don't know anything about the Platts, but the Critchleys are quite unable to spell. All they can do is give words their correct meaning.
You say the Oxford dictionary may not apply to Scotland since it is English. I would be glad to know what language they speak in Scotland, and what the Scots speak when they come to England. It is a problem I have often pondered, because there is undoubtedly some resemblance to English in some of the words.
As for 'sort', it seems to have assorted meanings, & the Scots resort to it on all sorts of occasions. Ever since the sort, or union, they have tried to dis-sort (unfix or break away) themselves from the sort with the English. Not that we the English sought sort with them, they aren't the sort one would chosse to sort with, or consort with; no on our part it was quite unsought. What can't be sorted must be endured. One thing I must admit, the scenery makes some asorts (amends) for the people.
Have I got into a sort (fix)? or have I got into the way of using sort correctly? No doubt you can sort it out.
We have had very little sunshine, a short spasm now & then just to show there is a sun, but it still keeps cold, too cold for the time of the year.
We, like you are outside the balloon barrage, the nearest is 2 or 3 miles away, the works too is outside but from there, we can count several hundred on a clear day, mainly the ones around East London & the Thames. Did we tell you of the time we saw an airman come down by parachute & drop onto a balloon? They had to lower the balloon to get him off, It was during the time of the big fights by day over London.
During the Blitz, which we so fortunatlely missed by staying in St Helen's until Sunday, two people I know had rather trying experiences. A man in our office had a land mine in his garden & it didn't go off. He said it was over 10 ft long & nearly 3 ft in diameter, & dropped into soft earth and stuck there until the RE's came and took off the detonators. The son of a neighbour of ours came to see us on Sunday. He said he was gazing out of a window at his flat when he saw the parachute fall, He chucked himself flat & says it seemed quite  time before there was a vivid yellow flash & then he got a brick on his head & felt glass going through his clothes.
During the last war 2 Zepps were brought down near us & the crews were buried at Potters' Bar. On our way home from St Helens, we passed the cemetery & noticed a crowd of people there. The previous night Jerry had dropped a land mine in this cemetery & scattered graves all over the place.
I hope you have a pleasant time when you visit your friends, though I cannot imagine anyone enjoying themselves amongst such people (Grandpa is, of course only teasing Molly about her friends BC).
Love from Auntie Annie and Uncle Tom

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Tom Critchley to Mary Platt 30.4.41

30.4.41

My Dear Mary & Harry

We are tonight indulging in an orgy of letter writing; this is the third, first to the Palestine exile, then the soldier son faithfully serving his King and country on holiday in Keswick & now your turn. Badly expressed I fear!!
Thank you very much for the plants which arrived in good condition and are now split up and planted. I fear they won't get their accustomed water in our garden, the big trees suck up what water is available.
Those land mines near us made a shocking mess, about the worst I have seen; we feel thankful we missed that lot.
Tom left at 5.30am, got to St Helens at 12.20, left there at 2.30 & got to Keswick about 7.00 296 miles, so it wasn't bad going for the old car. He is staying overnight at St Helens on the way back. I am wondering what Phoebe thought about his Margaret or Maggie as Seth calls her (Ronald's name for her is Gorgeous). She is, with strangers, rather quiet, but quite a nice girl.
Today we have had a practice for the invasion. All around our place here, the Coldstream Guards have been occupying the roads and hedges. I got a shock at mid-day to find a bloke with a bren gun pointed at me near the end of our road & tonight another bloke did pretend rapid rifle fire as I came along.
It was surprising how well they hid themselves & kept lorries and such things camouflaged & under cover. They even had leaves on thier tin hats.
Now I'll reply to that daughter of yours. I cannot think what sins you can possibly have committed to have a Scot inflicted on you.
Perhaps it's your husband's fault and not yours. Anyhow, it must be a trial, hard to bear.
Love to you both from us both,

Tom

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Tom Critchley to Molly Platt 21.4.41

37 Lonsdale Drive,
Enfield,
Mddx
21.4.41

My dear Molly,

The enclosure is not a packet of fags (I beg your pedantic parden – cigarettes) but the long promised piece of aeroplane. As you can see the piece shows bullet marks which helped to disintegrate the machine.
I am wondering if our local rates include entertainment tax during air raids, for if they do I want a rebate on mine, as we missed two really good do's while we were away. On the Wednesday night they only dropped common high explosives & smashed a few houses. Some folks had a lucky escape by doing our stunt of hiding under the table. The real bad do here was on Saturday when two land mines dropped at the back. The next door people were under the stairs with the wind up after the Wednesday raid. They say the house shook to the foundations. The people 2 or 3 doors away have a married son whose place was smashed up & the son & wife carted off the hospital. There were so many taken to this hospital they had to wait 4 hours before they could be treated.
When we got home on Sunday afternoon we found our back door & cupboards wide open; the fire places were full of soot so Jerry has really done us a good turn in sweeping the chimneys for us. We left windows open & chinks of soot seem to have drifted in, even the bath had soot in it.
As we as were coming home we saw the first signs at Potters Bar & then the shops near us – three were all minus windows so we began to wonder if we should see our house fit for heroes to live in & were quite relieved to find no damage.
Now to much more serious matters. In your youthful ignorance & partly-educated conceit you had the audacity to challenge, nay more, to laugh at, in scorn & derision, the use of the verb "want". The cake wants eating! Well for your education (no charge for private tuition) the Oxford dictionary shows that not only are you mistaken but also that a Scotch education has warped your concept of the English language.
To want may mean to require – as used by L Carroll "your hair wants cutting said the Hatter". The cakes wants eating " said the Critchleys! Please, oh please, don't reply to this until you have read all about in in that standard English work the "Oxford dictionary. What they say in Scotland is no argument, it's the noble English language we are dealing with & not the mongrel stuff debased by our northern neighbours.
On the other hand, but no effort of imagination, can one find the least excuse for using the word "sort" as used in Scotland. There one has a word missed by the uneducated & for which there is no justification. It isn't English & it isn't Gaelic, it's just bad slang & that's that!
What sort of a journey did you have? When we set out in sunshine on Sunday morning we were congratulating ourselves on waiting until the Sunday, but by the time we got to Rugby, we weren't so pleased. We ran into rain, then thunder which sounded just like a Blitz, then it turned to hail, very heavy indeed, which stuck on the windscreen. The sides of the roads became "burns" & for about 80 minutes things were very unpleasant.
The storm seemed to travel with us, but by doing 60 for a while we won during the last lap and arrived home just ahead of it. The tail end broke just as we got here.
Tom had to work yesterday, so we rang  the Robinsons to see if he & they were all right & then I rang up the works.
They had two landmines near but no damage. One of the landmines is still suspended on some railings, so somebody has a nice job to get it down.
Tom says he has been about London after every Blitz, but never but had never seen the damage there was after Wednesday night's attempt.
I wish you had come back with us. You could have cut the grass for us – it wants cutting – & I want an assistant so that I can stand by & criticise.

Give our love to your mother and father & keep a bit back for yourself.

Uncle Tom

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Tom Critchley's holiday from letter writing

It looks as if Tom and Annie Critchley, met up with Mary, Harry and Molly Platt at St Helen's, Lancashire, where Tom and Mary were born and brought up. So there is a slight gap in the letters. BC

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Tom Critchley to his niece Molly Platt March 27th 1941

37 Lonsdale Drive,

27.3.41


My dear Molly,

We wish you many happy returns of your Birthday & by the time the next one comes round we hope Hitler & his gang will have ceased to trouble you. Perhaps by that time he will be disputing supremacey in his natural home, with the present ruler – old nick.
Isn't it nice to have a few peaceful nights after violently disturbed ones?
You have a funny cousin in Tom, he is at present trying to get in the Air Force as a fighter pilot, he thinks it a good thing to shoot down German bombers – so do I.
I don't think they will take him as he has to wear glasses for seeing a distance, but I can quite understand him wanting to have a smack back, since he saw so much of the bombing of London last year. Night after night he was in the thick of it, with bombs dropping all around the hospital in which he was, until finally the hospital was destroyed. One night he counted 40 in an hour.
We haven't had a letter from Ronald for a month, perhaps father neptune is reading them – I hope he enjoys them. We haven't forgotten you like his letters & still intend sending some of them for you to read. We lent them to a friend who in turn passed them on (most foolishly) to a number of other people. After over 6 months we have at last got back most of them & since they are all mixed up, we are sorting them out & copying them. A long job!
I hope you will be able to get something amusing with the enclosed P.O.

Love from Auntie Annie and Uncle Tom.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Letter from Tom Critchley to Mary Platt 23.3.41



37 Lonsdale Drive

23.3.41

My dear Mary,

Mea culpa! If Annie didn't object I would pour ashes over my head. I did receive the P.O. & I did forget to thank you for it & Harry did post it in Dumfries for that was the post mark on the letter. I'll bet he has done things for which he hasn't got the blame so now that's one off the score.
I am glad you didn't get too scared over the Clydeside raids. You, like we, are out of the danger zone, that is real great danger. Where there are lots of open spaces around the danger is not nearly so bad as in enclosed property, especially with fire bombs, as witness those we have had all around us and the little damage done. The worst one near us, when the roof was on fire, the inhabtiants were sat in front of the fireplace & didn't know their house was ablaze until neighbours told them.
We had your lot of raiders over our way on their journey to you & gave them a good pasting, then, when they went to Hull on Tuesday, they came here again & some didn't get to Hull, but left their loads in East Barnet, once again near where we used to live. The next night , Wednesday, was our real turn, & a good & proper old fashioned do it was too, Fortunately they left Enfield alone and concentrated on East London. There was one big fire we could see at Edmonton & at one time I thought Brimsdown was involved, but they didn't get quite as far as that. Tom was out, as usual & rang up to say it was too hot to come home as a piece of shrapnel had already hit his car. We went to bed but only slept by fits and starts. It needs a sound sleeper not to rouse when the house rocks & it feels as if somebody was trying to push you out of bed. Besides we are not as used to it as we were & somehow don't take it as calmly. It now seems astounding how we managed during all those 15 weeks without a night off & averaging 10 – 13 hours a night. It's surprising what you can get used to. I have kept a record of raids, someday I must show you & point out the records 17.5 hours in one day out of 24 & the days the raids started I was coming home from work & the same raid was still on when we had our breakfast next morning.
Tom hasn't had his photo taken in uniform. He isn't at all proud of it, the first thing he does when he gets home is to change into civvies. He is very restless young man & has now come to the conclusion that his work in the Dental Corps is not enough & he thinks he ought to do more. He wondered about volunteering as an ARP worker in the East End, but being in the army I don't see how that could be wangled. Today he has the bright idea of volunteerring for the air force as a fighter pilot. He seems to think it would be humane to shoot bombers down in flames. The only objection is his eyes; he wonders if they take fighter pilots with glasses. He doesn't want a bomber, I think for that one needs to be a bit cold blooded, but I can understand anybody being willing & eager to have a go at Jerry  bombers. They are a lot of dirty tykes.
You are lucky to get 2 glasses of tongue, neither glasses nor tins are available here, but we have quite a nice stock of iron rations for use if an emergency should arise.
We haven't had a letter from Ronald for about a month; I suppose some must be lying at the bottom of the sea, but as Tom had the cable, we know Ronald is all right, so aren't worried. Neverthless letters are always welcome.
We still haven't yet made up our minds about St Helens, it's full moon then & anything might happen; we think they are safer than we, but there is always a sort of feeling that one would rather be bombed in one's own home. Like a place I pass everyday where they sell seats for dug outs, advertise "Be bombed in Comfort"
Now, we both wish you many returns of the 26th may they be much better than this one.

Love from us both Tom

P S Do you fill all your kettles at night? It's a wise precaution twice we have been without water

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Tom Critchley to his sister Mary Platt 7th March 1941

7.3.41

My dear Mary,

I have just had the bill for your capsules or whatever they are 8/9 so there is quite a respectable saving – 7.6 + 1/3 tax. If you want any more, give me plenty of time because we only order periodically & sometimes it takes some days before we get the goods. We get most things like that at discount rates, for instance we get Bovril for 5/6 a 1lb bottle.
Last Sunday Annie and I took advantage of a fine day & went for a trip round London. It's far worse than I imagined & gave me quite a shock.
Tottenham Court Rd is not so bad except where it meets Oxford Street, there there is quite a bit of damage,  Charing Cross Rd, opposite is shut to traffic.
Hoborn shows quite a lot of damage, but doesn't look too bad now it has been cleared up and patched. We couldn't go along Newgate St, so had to go round Smithfield into Aldersgate St. That end of Aldersgate is a mess with half-demolished buildings & twisted girders on both sides. Then we made for St Pauls. What a mess! Paternoster Row is – in fact it's gone with all its book shops, so you won't be able to take Mollie there to gaze longingly at the books. Cheapside is bad – I should say over half the buildings are in ruins, but the north side of Cheapside is awful. Viewed from Moorgate Street from either London Wall or Fore Street one gazes across a wide expense of waste with not even a wall standing up. Perhaps it looked worse to me as I used to know this district so well with it's narrow streets of the days of old London & congested area. Gazing down London wall is like looking at a picture of ruined Ypres.
We went to have a look at Johnson's place in Paul St. By some strange chance it escaped the worst & stands up like a lighthouse amongst a sea of ruins. It has been chipped and seared but other places are flat or burned out.
That busy crossing ar the Bank, where stand the mansion House & Exchange is one huge crater with temporary wood bridges across. A big bomb dropped there and tore through the subways.
I should say that the real bad destruction is well nigh a mile square, really bad that is, not just a house or building here & there, flat.
The one bright spot in it all, is that the damage is not the kind that hampers the war effort. It's a good job the Germans are Hunnish minded & try to frighten folks instead of concentrating on works that matter.
I sent you a book early in the week. "Jonathan North", as you will see it is second hand but well worth, reading, at least we think so. I sent a copy to our Jim at Christmas & Phoebe and Jim M, I hear both think it not nice in parts. It didn't strike us so, we thoroughly enjoyed it and I hope you both do too.I don't want it back as I have a copy at home.
Goodness knows what we are doing at Easter. I would like very much to go to St Helens and may manage it, but it is early days to make arrangements at present.
Last week when I was writing to you I think I mentioned doors & windows rattling. It wasn't guns only that caused it, it was bomb s between us & Potter's Bar. You never can tell one from t'other properly, so the only sensible thing to do, is to pretend it's always guns. Annie said she looked at me & as I took no notice she thought it was all right. We have had comparative little raiding this year & what there has been has been mild & nothing to trouble about. February was the slackest month since August, it has been as good a s holiday & judging by the present weather, with its pouring rain the aerodromes will be waterlogged for some days yet.

Love to you three from us both

Tom